Lust of the Eyes: What Does 1 John 2:16 Mean?


1 John 2:16 reads, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” King James Version (KJV)

Translation1 John 2:16
ESVFor all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
NASBFor all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
NIVFor everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.
NLTFor the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

Lust of the Eyes: Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

2:15-17 The things of the world may be desired and possessed for the uses and purposes which God intended, and they are to be used by his grace, and to his glory; but believers must not seek or value them for those purposes to which sin abuses them.

The world draws the heart from God; and the more the love of the world prevails, the more the love of God decays. The things of the world are classed according to the three ruling inclinations of depraved nature.

1. The lust of the flesh, of the body: wrong desires of the heart, the appetite of indulging all things that excite and inflame sensual pleasures.

2. The lust of the eyes: the eyes are delighted with riches and rich possessions; this is the lust of covetousness.

3. The pride of life: a vain man craves the grandeur and pomp of a vain-glorious life; this includes thirst after honour and applause.

The things of the world quickly fade and die away; desire itself will ere long fail and cease, but holy affection is not like the lust that passes away.

The love of God shall never fail. Many vain efforts have been made to evade the force of this passage by limitations, distinctions, or exceptions.

Many have tried to show how far we may be carnally-minded, and love the world; but the plain meaning of these verses cannot easily be mistaken.

Unless this victory over the world is begun in the heart, a man has no root in himself, but will fall away, or at most remain an unfruitful professor.

Yet these vanities are so alluring to the corruption in our hearts, that without constant watching and prayer, we cannot escape the world, or obtain victory over the god and prince of it.

1 John 2:16 | Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

all that is in the world—can be classed under one or other of the three; the world contains these and no more.

lust of the flesh—that is, the lust which has its seat and source in our lower animal nature. Satan tried this temptation the first on Christ: Lu 4:3, “Command this stone that it be made bread.” Youth is especially liable to fleshly lusts.

lust of the eyes—the avenue through which outward things of the world, riches, pomp, and beauty, inflame us.

Satan tried this temptation on Christ when he showed Him the kingdoms of the world in a moment. By the lust of the eyes David (2Sa 11:2) and Achan fell (Jos 7:21).

Compare David’s prayer, Ps 119:37; Job’s resolve, Ps 31:1; Mt 5:28. The only good of worldly riches to the possessor is the beholding them with the eyes. Compare Lu 14:18, “I must go and SEE it.”

pride of life—literally, “arrogant assumption”: vainglorious display. Pride was Satan’s sin whereby he fell and forms the link between the two foes of man, the world (answering to “the lust of the eyes”) and the devil (as “the lust of the flesh” is the third foe).

Satan tried this temptation on Christ in setting Him on the temple pinnacle that, in spiritual pride and presumption, on the ground of His Father’s care, He should cast Himself down.

The same three foes appear in the three classes of soil on which the divine seed falls: the wayside hearers, the devil; the thorns, the world; the rocky undersoil, the flesh (Mt 13:18-23; Mr 4:3-8).

The world’s awful antitrinity, the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” similarly is presented in Satan’s temptation of Eve: “When she saw that the tree was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise,” Ge 3:6 (one manifestation of “the pride of life,” the desire to know above what God has revealed, Col 2:8, the pride of unsanctified knowledge).

of—does not spring from “the Father” (used in relation to the preceding “little children,” 1Jo 2:12, or “little sons”). He who is born of God alone turns to God; he who is of the world turns to the world; the sources of love to God and love to the world, are irreconcilably distinct.

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